Maciek Pysz Album Launch at The Forge 18 November 2015

Maciek Pysz at The Forge, 18 November 2015
Maciek Pysz at The Forge, 18 November 2015

It came to me quite suddenly – those half remembered words of John Keats “full-throated ease” and after the concert I hurried back to Ode to a Nightingale to rediscover what had prompted this image in my mind. For truly many of the sounds we heard from the guitars of Maciek Pysz last night at the launch of his second album A Journey at The Forge in Camden were full throated like a nightingale, gorgeous, rising above the other instruments effortlessly, hanging in the air, trailing off so gently and gracefully. The evening was one for the senses and for our imaginations. For Maciek’s dazzlingly memorable tunes and rhythms prompt you to see with his eyes, hear with his ears – whether it is a sophisticated Venice in Water Streets, a Paris basement jazz club or memories of his childhood.

And Keats’ warm South was there too in the shape of Italian ECM artist Daniele di Bonaventura on nostaglic bandoneon and rippling piano. The delicate abstract conversations between bandoneon and guitar in Ralph Towner’s Innocente and Pysz’s Desert highlights of the evening.  This was an evening to savour the sight as well as the sound of music-making – sometimes Daniele looked to the ceiling, gently rocking in his chair, the sound of buttons lightly touched like tiny gasps. Maciek’s guitar sits so easily in his lap, a natural extension of his arms and fingers, his fingers a blur – can he really be the only person making all those beautiful sounds? And Yuri Goloubev‘s wry lop-sided smile as he cascades up and down his strings faster and faster, Asaf Sirkis‘ closed eyes as he plays, his hands pitter-pattering on the udu. And surely this is why we come out to concerts – to see as well as hear?  Recent tragic events were not forgotten as Maciek dedicated his spirited, stylish Paris to the people of the city he loves very much.

We would have loved an encore but our time was up. We walked off into the night aware we had had a rare experience, a bit like hearing a nightingale.

Maciek Pysz’s tour continues until 28 November 2015

A Journey is released on Dot Time Records

Mary James 19 November 2015

Maciek Pysz Tour blog: Impressions to 13 November 2015

Maciek Pysz, St Ives 10 Nov 2015, photo by Tony Brown
Maciek Pysz, St Ives 10 Nov 2015, photo by Tony Brown

Alchemy – the process of turning base metals into gold. That’s how a tour seems to me – the base metal is the long drive to the gig, snatched meals, unloading the car (which Tardis-like has to hold far more than you can imagine), the patient carrying of stuff up or down stairs to the silent stage, the bleak empty rows of chairs, the music just notes on a page.  The alchemy is what happens when you mix supreme virtuosity, inspiration and shared experience.  And as this first full week of the tour ended with news of the tragedy in Paris, the beauty was punctured, Messenger and Facebook anxiously consulted. The gold had turned back to base metal.

But earlier there was definitely a touch of Eleanor Rigby  in Yuri Goloubev’s graceful arco opening to Peacefully Waiting.  Not for the first time was I reminded of how deep is the influence of The Beatles on all our listening.  I heard it again in the upbeat Ringo-like chug from Asaf Sirkis in Those Days when played in Cambridge. The title of the new album by Maciek Pysz is ‘A Journey’ and it seems to me that Maciek is describing interior journeys as much as literal ones in his compositions, that the musical descriptions of places like Venice in Water Streets are also descriptions of himself.

When an audience member says to me “I had not heard of Maciek before, I am so glad I came, I love this, I can’t wait to put the cd on when I get home”, when a musician in the audience involuntarily breathes “Oooo…”,  when I look round and see people smiling with happiness, then there is the alchemy. And as for me, I will try to listen with the stillness of Asaf in the next concerts.

Of course none of these wonderful evenings would happen without the toil of unpaid promoters who bear the financial risk of running an event. From the welcome on our arrival, the heartfelt introductions (“I have been really looking forward to this gig, we are so lucky to have this band with us tonight”) to the final cheery wave goodbye, they make all the difference and help turn the mundane into gold.

The Maciek Pysz ‘A Journey’ Album Release Tour continues til 28th November 2015. Album on Dot Time Records.

Mary James 15 November 2015

Maciek Pysz Tour blog: 4 November 2015

It may seem a bit self-indulgent writing about an artist I have worked with for 18 months but I simply want to capture my thoughts and feelings as the 19 date UK tour of Maciek Pysz unfolds.  I am privileged in having a close up view, this moment may never come again so here are a few very personal thoughts. So here’s the beginning – Day 1 at St John the Evangelist, Oxford.

MaciekPysz_041115What struck me most forcefully was how much darker the music of the new album ‘A Journey’ is. If Maciek’s first album ‘Insight’ was all sunlit piazze, the new material is much more nuanced, gently shaded and reflective, but still vibrant with wonderful tunes.  Yuri’s bass appeared very muscular – hardly any of his signature romantic arco, and in stark contrast to the gentle touch of Asaf on drums. But it all worked perfectly, Maciek swapping between well-worn Tanglewood and exquisite new Dupont, the many layers of  the most distinctive and complex song on the album ‘Undeniable’  manifest by suble overdubbing where complexity sounded so easy and natural, the Trio’s interaction the result of deep sympathy and empathy.

The arrangements from quartet on the album to trio on tour are something I will listen out for as the tour unfolds. I was genuinely taken by surprise by the duo arrangement for guitar and bass of ‘Story of a Story’. And moved to tears by the beautiful ‘Beneath an Evening Sky’ by Ralph Towner  (please record this one day Maciek) so the juxtaposition of  the jaunty ‘Paris’ immediately following the Towner made me catch my breath, not for the first time that evening. The sound from the Trio was so beautiful – to hear them with only their modest amplifiers to project the sound was a very special event.  We were able to hear the sound as if it were a transparent veil over the magical scene in the darkened church. Every sound was delicately resonant and the silent audience was rapt.  I always said this was special trio and last night they reinforced that impression.  As I drove home in fog over the Cotswolds, I could hear and feel the music cloak me in wonder and gratitude. Oh lucky me!

Maciek’s tour is 4 -28 November 2015 more info

Mary James 5 November 2015

Album review: Mark Pringle – A Moveable Feast (released Sept 2015)

A Moveable FeastFollowing in the footsteps of his hero Hemingway, award winning pianist and protegé of John Law, Mark Pringle recently studied in Paris. The influence of this time can be heard in this adventurous and interesting album for 12 piece orchestra, A Moveable Feast, released on Stoney Lane Records.

Like the book by Hemingway, this album is full of vivid impressions that grew on me with repeated listenings, the compositions echoing Hemingway’s memorable Paris residents, the smells, the cold, the drinking, but in the album we meet trees, plants and he writer himself. The opening composition ‘A Real Bombshell‘ with arresting and unsettling piano, and striking trumpet solo by Percy Pursglove, is sinister, chaotic and slightly sleazy.

The short album feels through-composed, the stories flow gently from one to another with plinks on the piano, muffled squeaks and creaks from woodwind and strings, the sounds of a city. The joyful calypso ‘Happy Plants ( Part II)’ is sandwiched between darker compositions, the 31 minute album as satisfying as a rich Parisian dinner. A very lovely ‘And That’s OK’ gently closes the album.

Mark has an extensive tour with his Trio or the full orchestra throughout September 2015, definitely worth catching, this young pianist could become the British Brad Mehldau, his many projects an indicator of a very great and mature talent.

Mary James 23 August 2015

Album review: -isq: too

isq_tooWhy did I love this album the moment I heard it? The album is Too by -isq and let’s get the acronyms and wordplay out of the way – isq stands for Irene Serra Quartet.  And the Too of the title refers to their second album.  So that’s done, now why do I love it?  For a while I have thought of  singer-songwriter Irene Serra as the London equivalent of  Silje Nergaard, whose stellar band was made up of the then Tord Gustavsen Trio (with the greatly missed Harald Johnsen and Jarle Vespestad).  The delicacy of support and phrasing that Silje commanded  in her band was unsurpassed for a singer who nearly made it big in pop, who totally charmed us with her “Be still my heart” and “How am I supposed to see the stars”.

So when I first came across Irene with her composition “Unforgettable You” (not on the album) I was immediately reminded of Silje.   But this is no copy, although her band is every bit as skillful and moving as that with Silje, we have moved into darker territory with Irene, whose tragic, sultry voice is more suited to our times, and is the voice we all want – passionate, vulnerable, fragile yet strong, without a trace of regret.

The album consists of eight of Irene’s compositions. Each is striking, self aware, all are about love, or loss of it, or complicated love, there are no happy endings here.  The tempos are like a girl skipping down the street, sometimes fast, sometimes slowing down, turning round to look at us thoughtfully and then moving on.  The final track  “Light and Shade” is defiant, yet tip toes away, the perfect way to leave us, no looking back. Highly recommended.

Touring right now, catch her and be entranced!

isq are:

  • Irene Serra, vocals
  • Richard Sadler, double bass
  • Chris Nickolls, drums
  • John Crawford, piano

Mary James, 1 April 2015

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